Because life is a series of edits

Archive for March, 2008|Monthly archive page

Play Ball!

In Places & Spaces, Sports on March 31, 2008 at 4:40 am

Busch

The Cardinals officially open their season at home today against the Colorado Rockies. I’m interested to see how much all the off-season changes (and there have been many) pay off, particularly the much-mentioned bringing up of “homegrown” players from within the system. We still have no pitching (a starting rotation of five righthanders?), but it’s baseball, so it can’t be all bad.

Now if somebody could get something done with Crater Ballpark Village, St. Louis might be taken seriously as a city with an actual downtown. Here‘s what it’s supposed to look like if it’s ever finished (er, started); here‘s what it looks like now (and has for a year-and-a-half). While the city decides what to do, can somebody at least sod this eyesore so families can picnic before a game?

Play ball!

When Renting Has Its Advantages

In Family, Places, Places & Spaces on March 27, 2008 at 7:34 am

Even if you don’t live in St. Louis, you still might have heard about all the rain the Midwest has received of late. Though we don’t live near any overflowing riverbanks, here’s a shot of our own little tragedy as a result of the rain: as of early this morning, Cair Paravel is no more.

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The tree (a Chinese Elm) had grown at a 60-degree angle for many years. From what we can tell, all the water eroded the root system enough that the tree’s weight (it was big) just toppled it over. In fact, as we were piecing all this together, our 7-year-old showed us a picture she took of this crack in the ground at the base of the tree just yesterday that might have clued us in that it was going to go (so much for being parents aware of their children’s play environment).

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Thankfully, the tree went down around 4:30 a.m. with no little people in or around the playhouse at the time. Something like that would have been a true tragedy, which we’re very grateful to God didn’t happen.

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Despite clouds of sadness here at the Half Pint House, there do seem to be a few silver linings: from what our landlord and I could tell from our inspection this morning, the playhouse broke the fall and is (still) holding up the bulk of the weight of the tree, salvaging the garage and bringing some redemption to the ruins of its destruction (not to mention points for us with our landlord in building something in our backyard that saved his garage).

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Will there be full restoration? Doubtful. But, at least the playhouse served a greater purpose than merely frustrating me for three solid days while building it last May. We may look into some kind of replacement in the future, but right now we’re at the mercy of the Triangle of Reality (time, money, quality – you pick two) and will be for a while.

I’m glad I don’t have to haggle with the insurance company or figure out how to get rid of the silly tree. Renting does have its advantages.

On Nostalgia

In Pop Culture, Writers on March 26, 2008 at 9:57 am

“Nostalgia undermines the ability to make intelligent use of the past. Memory, in contrast, does not idealize the past to condemn the present, but draws hope from the past in order to enrich the present and guide the future.” Christopher Lasch

“Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.” Peter De Vries

Bittersweet Break

In Calling, Friends, Seminary, Vacation on March 25, 2008 at 6:56 am

Due to either brilliant planning or pathetic procrastination, my Westminster Spring Break is turning out to be more about remembering what it’s like to be a full-time student than what it’s like to be a teacher with a week off. On the docket:

  • Listen to seven 45-minute lectures, read five chapters, complete a study guide, and take the mid-term for my Ancient & Medieval Church History class
  • Write a 5-page paper for my Children’s Ministry class
  • Write two CD reviews and a 10-page paper for my Music & Theology class

I’m spending today at Covenant with two main purposes in mind:

  1. To get away and focus (the Catacombs are a bit too chilly and noisy for extended periods of time studying)
  2. To schedule some academic advising in response to Covenant’s publication of next year’s class schedule (if all goes well, I may actually be able to finish my Masters degree in Theological Studies a year from now)

I’m preparing myself this morning for somewhat of a bittersweet encounter, namely going to my first seminary chapel all year. In addition to seeing lots of familiar faces and sitting through an optional mid-week chapel whose participants are actually interested (unlike the mandatory weekly high school chapels I’m used to refereeing), my friend Ronnie is preaching.

Ronnie and I started seminary in the same Beginning Greek class almost three years ago. He (along with Rob, Tom, Mitchell, Josh, Mike, and dozens of others) are graduating this May with an actual Masters of Divinity degree after 36 solid months of ridiculous class loads and more Hebrew than I ever wanted (or was able) to endure.

While I’m happy and proud of all of them for gutting it out these past three years, I confess I’m more than a little sheepish about showing up today in my part-time, four-year, non-language, theological studies kind of way. Though none of them possess a superiority complex because of our divergent seminary paths, I (like the 14-year-old I perpetually think of myself as) am able to provide enough of an inferiority complex for all of us.

Indeed, I’m that gifted.

That said, I’m looking forward to what God will teach me today – about his unconditional love, about his sovereign plan, about the community of his people. I need to learn more about these things today, as they may be the only things that get me through this week of full-time seminary student studies with hope instead of drudgery as my companion.

Easter Haiku

In Holidays, Poetry on March 23, 2008 at 11:05 am

Easter happiness
Where, O death, now is thy sting?
Since love made a way

Overcast Links

In Pop Culture on March 19, 2008 at 11:49 am

A few links on an overcast, rainy day (our third in a row, which I’m loving):

  • Megan is finishing up her music discussion week (one more song tomorrow), so check out the lyrics and leave a comment; everybody’s doing it
  • At least somebody at the New York Times gets it regarding Eliot Spitzer (and men in general – “bromance” anyone?):

“Every society produces its own distinct brand of social misfits, I suppose, but our social structure seems to produce significant numbers of people with rank-link imbalances. That is to say, they have all of the social skills required to improve their social rank, but none of the social skills that lead to genuine bonding.”

Who Needs Curriculum When You’ve Got New York?

In Marriage, Politics, Westminster on March 18, 2008 at 10:43 am

Last Monday, I started a unit with my ethics classes on the seventh commandment (“You shall not commit adultery”). For those watching the news cycle of late, you know that last Monday was the beginning of the whole Eliot Spitzer downfall and, as of yesterday, the disclosure of sexual dalliances by his replacement, David Patterson.

The events of the past ten days have made for some timely case studies with my students in our discussions of marriage. That said, I’ll be interested to get their responses tomorrow to this article in today’s New York Times that (once again) writes off such indiscretions as nothing more than naturalistic determinism.

The Truth Is Out There

In Movies, Pop Culture, TV on March 16, 2008 at 2:00 am

In the comments on my last post, the discussion took a turn and ended up on The X-Files and the upcoming second movie, due out July 25th. I'm geared up for the flick, though I have no idea why they're apparently letting go of the government conspiracy arc and dealing only with the paranormal; still, as long as Mulder and Scully are back, count me in (we own every season on DVD, and watched one episode a night last year to reconnect with our TV counterparts).

Back in the glory days of The X-Files, I had an idea for an episode in which Mulder and Scully were chosen to participate in and test the ultimate Witness Protection Program. The gimmick? Those in the program were unaware of their involvement in it, thanks to a combination of drugs, relocation, and cover-up. It could have been a cool idea, but later that same season, there was an episode in which Mulder and Scully went undercover as a married couple, so my screenplay would have seemed redundant after that.

Still, for your enjoyment, here's the intro to my episode; let me know what you think. (Note to X-Files creator, Chris Carter: Have your people call my people; I'm in the book.)

(Fade up. Mulder, gun in hand, is slowly making his way through a dark, foggy factory strangely reminiscent of those seen in previous episodes. As he rounds a corner, he sees a door with a bright light coming from underneath it.)

(Making his way to the door, he opens it to find he is standing at the end of a long aisle in a well-lit church with people looking back at him from all sides. Soft organ music is playing in the background. As he considers the scene, a little girl waves to him from the last pew and he raises his left hand sheepishly to wave back. In doing so, he notices the gold ring on his left hand, and is dumbfounded.)

(The music continues and all the attendants and congregants are looking away from him, sharing his stare at the dark back door of the church. Nervous and a little uncomfortable, he continues to look around, again catching the eye of the same little girl in the pew who smiles and waves again. He again waves back, unsure of what he’s doing here or who this girl is.)

(Suddenly, the door at the end of the aisle opens, and whispers of excitement travel through the crowd. There in the doorway in proper tuxedo attire is the Cigarette-Smoking Man serving as the father of the bride, Scully, all aglow with the glory of the day.)

(Mulder, visibly shaken, scans the room trying to figure out what is going on. While doing this, he becomes distracted by a stuck key steadily pulsing from the organ. Mulder turns back to the crowd, now wearing all black and looking directly at him with dull expressions, except for the one little girl in back waving at Mulder. As he looks up the aisle, he sees Scully and the Cigarette-Smoking Man are nowhere to be found, and the heavy, dark door begins to close.)

(Mulder, frightened that Scully’s gone, begins running toward the back door. As he does so, the pulse of the broken organ grows louder and louder, and the crowd of black-clothed people converge on the aisle zombie-like, preventing him from making his way to the back. Finally, the pulse of the organ is so unbearable in his ears…)

(Mulder wakes up in a warm, decorated, sunlit bedroom, realizing that the pulse of the organ was really his alarm clock going off. He fumbles to turn off the alarm, sits up straight, and takes a deep breath, glad to be out of the dream. Understanding what just happened (ie. that he was dreaming), he shakes his head and begins to get out of bed.)

(Just before he walks off to take a cold shower and begin the day, he sentimentally turns back and kneels on the bed with one knee to bend over and plant a quick kiss on the cheek of his still-sleeping bed partner, Scully, who responds to his affection with a half-asleep sigh. Mulder smiles as he walks past a framed (and dated) picture of their wedding day, flips the light in the bathroom, and turns on the shower while the camera zooms in on the picture of the newly wedded couple, then fades to black.)

THEME SONG & OPENING CREDITS
TAG LINE: "THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE"

Wow (and Whew)

In Calling, Westminster on March 12, 2008 at 7:02 pm

Yesterday after school, Jim Marsh, headmaster at Westminster, walked into my room, shook my hand, congratulated me, and then gave me an envelope with a contract for the 2008-2009 school year. Unless I do something really stupid (or stop doing something I am apparently doing right) between now and the end of May, I have a teaching position next year.

While Megan and the girls were appropriately excited, I haven’t told my students yet. I guess I just don’t want them distracted by the news and overcome with the inevitable tears of joy and sure-to-come shouts of exuberance before the third quarter ends this week.

And to think, all this started almost a year ago. Wow (and whew).

Listening to Lamott

In Books, Writers on March 11, 2008 at 8:40 am

Last night my nine-year-old and I went to hear author Anne Lamott read from her new book, Grace (Eventually). The setting for the evening was the “sanctuary” of the Ethical Society of St. Louis, and the place was packed with at least 500-600 folks eager to hear Lamott’s random but winsome thoughts about writing, politics, and religion. Judging by their response, she did not disappoint.

I’ve read four of Lamott’s books: Bird by Bird (her book on writing); Blue Shoe (a novel – eh); Operating Instructions (a journal of her son’s first year of life); and Traveling Mercies (her first book on “faith”). I think we have Plan B (more thoughts on faith) somewhere on the shelf, and I’ve read various essays she’s written for Salon over the years.

In other words, I’m a fan.

Lamott makes no bones about her political distaste for all things Republican (especially George Bush and Dick Cheney), but there was almost none of the verbal expletives or berating for which I had prepared my daughter and myself (though I’m no fan, either); when she wasn’t gracious, she was super-clever in making her points, and she found a supportive crowd for her most stinging critiques.

Lamott’s personal story is one of redemption to be sure – single mother battling alcohol addiction finds way back to church and writes her way out of a bad situation. She wears (and shows) the scars of her life admirably in the stories she writes and in the change she lives, and it was fun hearing more of these in her own voice (if you’ve read any of her work, she’s as funny in person as she is in her writing).

And yet, as good as Lamott is on the details of her craft, she glosses over quite a bit when it comes to religion. Jesus “works” for her, yes, but she’s very accommodating to “one mountain, many paths” thinking (or at least she said so last night). Heavily influenced by the feminist movement, liberation theology (read: Christian socialism) and her PCUSA church in Marin County, CA, when asked about the most influential man and woman in her life, Lamott named her politically active parents (both now deceased), though that influence was both for the good (her father) and the bad (her mother). It was both a touching yet bittersweet reflection.

We didn’t stick around for the book sale/signing afterward, but I’ll probably read the new book on grace (eventually). Regardless, what last night confirmed to me was that Lamott still seems to be Lamott, and though I have questions as to what she says she believes, I take much joy in who she is.

Becoming More Like Them (part 2)

In Church, Education, Seminary on March 10, 2008 at 4:53 am

I resonate with Campagnola’s assessment, particularly when she writes:

“The contemporary church has often understood this verse (Matthew 18:3) to teach what great kingdom citizen character looks like – a child-like faith, humble and meek and ever ready to believe in Jesus. But Jesus took the disciples beyond the questions of character and greatness and challenged their theology of salvation and kingdom life. He made the child the reference point for:

• conversion – change and become like little children…to enter the kingdom
• community – become like little children in order to exemplify kingdom life
• calamity – unless you change…you will never enter the kingdom of heaven

He unfolds this in the subsequent verses with parallel language: change is evident when you humble yourself like this child; become is evident when you welcome a little child like this in my name; calamity awaits you if you cause one of these little ones to sin.” (72-73)

The way this challenges me is by revealing my lack of faith in thinking children are just little people we have to deal with because they’re young. How many times have I wondered what the early church did with their members’ children? How many ways have I imagined that, somehow, children must have been more godly then since their parents were who God was working through to begin the church? Answer: too many times to mention without embarrassment at my untamed idealism, to be sure.

Rather than lamenting that I have to deal with kids in church because (darn it) they’re young and not adults yet, how would my heart change if my default mentality was more along the lines that I get to minister to them because they’re young and not adults yet? What would that feel like for me, and (as importantly), what would it feel like for them?

I physically cringed at Campagnola’s statement that, “Children are seen as a distraction, and indeed they can be distracting as they respond to what is happening in worship and teaching that does not reflect their presence” (73), but not as much as I did when I read her follow-up questions 14 pages later: ““Is this relevant? Is this transferable to contemporary culture? Is there room in the ethics and handling of children for this perspective? Is there room in modern churches? Who is distracting whom?” (87).

Then it hits me: when we in the church refuse to become child-like, we are being childish; in not wanting to bring our children “into our midst,” we are being selfish; in not considering our children as “models of kingdom life,” we are being proud; in not looking to our children as “mirrors of kingdom hearts,” we are being blind; and in not honoring our children as “martyrs of kingdom rejection,” we are being unjust.

Is this the kind of existence Jesus calls us to embrace? Hardly. Is this the kind of life Paul calls us to forsake? Indeed. Perhaps we should spend more time wondering about children and their place in the church and less time thinking about adults and their place in heaven.

By Jesus’ own words, I wonder if there will be any adults in heaven anyway.

Becoming More Like Them (part 1)

In Church, Education, Seminary on March 9, 2008 at 4:08 pm
“I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children,
you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Jesus, Matthew 18:3

“If growing up means it would be beneath my dignity to climb a tree,
I’ll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up, not me!”
Peter Pan, “I Won’t Grow Up”

Child-like. Childish. In most adult minds, there are few differences between the two, as evidenced by most church children’s ministries’ desire that kids forsake childish ways in exchange for a more adult variety. After all, wasn’t it Paul who said, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me”? Indeed.

But there’s a difference between being “child-like” and “childish.” Shelly Campagnola, in her article in the book, Children’s Spirituality, paints a powerful picture of child-likeness – not for children (after all, a kid is as close to being a child as one can get) but for adults. She writes:

“What does it mean to become like a child? It means to see children from God’s redemptive perspective, and to become like children from the culture’s perspective. The child is on the outside, not included in the inner circle of those who think they have the way to God. The child is on the bottom, not considered eligible for recognition or participation and thus does not seek those. The child is powerless, voiceless, defenseless, claimless, forgotten and forsaken. The child is the one who is brought to Jesus, not one who assumes access. The child is the one pulled out of the gutter by a hand that says he does not belong there even when everyone else says he does.” (86-87)

Becoming child-like is not about being young-at-heart, but about being young, period; it’s not about children becoming more like us, but about us becoming more like them.

Desperately Seeking Sabbath

In Health on March 8, 2008 at 2:07 pm

“All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.” Blaise Pascal

In a bit of a melancholic funk today from squeezing too much work into too little of a week last week; not sleeping well, not reading much, and not getting enough of my recommended daily allowance of time spent alone. Sabbath‘s looking pretty darn good.

Politics That Make You Go “Hmmm”

In Politics on March 3, 2008 at 9:14 am

In light of the primaries tomorrow (supposedly a dead heat), two questions keep floating through my head. First, why has Clinton‘s campaign been so poorly run (especially since January)? The second is, in light of number one, why is Obama not set to run away with the primaries tomorrow (and the democratic nomination as a result)?

Any theories?

Caption Contest Winners

In Pop Culture, Westminster on March 1, 2008 at 2:00 am

For those following the caption contest and waiting with bated breath for the results, Megan has made her final evaluative decisions. Her rankings and rationale:

#5 "I feel like life is changing, and it all depends on this little box." (Maddie) – okay, so I'm a little biased, but this was pretty good for a nine-year-old

#4 “no, i swear i had a righteous, flowing mullet at least this long…” (Tom) – this amused me because I thought Tom would look pretty cool with one and giggled at the idea

#3 “… and that’s when I stole Rob Bell’s glasses.” (Travis) – this made me laugh out loud because Craig could care less about stealing style from anybody

#2 "Now, these…are spirit fingers! (Tim) – this was just hilarious because I wonder (and worry) sometimes about Craig's tendency to watch TBN just for fun

#1 "My respect for your opinion would fit in this box." (Skinner) – this was the winner because of its ironic truth; even though it's so far from what Craig wants, we all know he has his moments
Thanks to Megan for judging the contest, as well as to everyone who participated. And, congratulations to our top five finishers for making fun of me. Truly, you have a gift.